Animal lovers with a heart gathered on February 12 at Penny and Adam Bianchi’s idyllic Montecito estate for the Diana Basehart Foundation’s Affair of the Heart fundraiser. Funds raised support the foundation’s mission of assisting low-income South County residents pay for critical veterinary care for their pets.
About 70 guests attended the afternoon reception, enjoying wine and food while soaking in the delightful ambiance of the Bianchi’s Provencal farmhouse and sprawling wildlife sanctuary next door to Oprah’s estate. Chanteuse Daveena Limonick, a major supporter, performed Great American Songbook numbers with other musicians.
Diana Basehart is a longtime supporter of animals, she and her late husband Richard Basehart co-founded Actors & Others for Animals in Los Angeles. Four years ago, she and Lynne Shaw, another longtime animal supporter, co-founded the Diana Basehart Foundation, which has now served more than 1,000 pets (about 75 percent dogs, 25 percent cats). Many of the owners served are elderly and on fixed income, some are disabled, some are veterans, and some are homeless. For all of them, their pet provides precious companionship.
In a short program, Basehart thanked her many supporters present and shared a heartbreaking story that she had just heard. A woman whose dog had rat poisoning was unable to pay the $1,500 cost for treatment or even the $60 to have the dog put down. She implored guests to spread the word in the community about the need for funding to help people like this.
The foundation is extremely efficient, every dollar donated goes to those in need. A benefactor pays the salary of executive director Judy Hartstone, whose impressive resume includes running PAWS of Bainbridge Island for 12 years, which had a similar mission. Diana pays all admin expenses. Several area veterinarians regularly work with the foundation, all offering significant discounts. Hartstone verifies the financial need of all applicants.
There has been a recent uptick in demand. Until last May, the foundation was helping about one pet per day, from June through December, it helped on average 70 pets per month. It caps the amount spent at $500 per case from the general fund, but seeks donations for specific cases when costs exceed the cap. Sometimes all that is needed is a $60 exam to enable an owner to keep his or her beloved pet, other times the cost can greatly exceed the cap. Last year, the foundation spent nearly $150,000 on veterinary assistance. In addition to the financial assistance, Hartstone also acts as counselor for struggling clients, some of whom don’t have family or close friends, and as social worker, referring them to nonprofits to meet other needs.
Basehart expressed a sentiment likely shared by many of the foundation’s clients, that “the better part of me would go if I lost my pet.” This drove Basehart to start the foundation and keeps her working day after day to support the foundation’s mission of providing “a lifeline for people and their pets.”
For more information, go to new.basehart.org.
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